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Pickering Nuclear Power Plant

March 5, 1998

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We started our plant tour in the temporary visitor centre.  The plant tour centre is currently being renovated so this off site unit is being used until the centre is complete.  The facility was small but we all squeezed into the room to watch a video on the safety features of the plant.  After viewing this video, questions were answered from our group.  Some of the questions were right to the point and the answers that we got were truthful and very informative.

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Members are preparing for the tour in the visitor centre.
Our members were taken by two shuttle buses to the plant.  Before getting on the buses, we were all briefed on the rules of the tour.  No food items were allowed into the plant.  We were all asked to check our pockets many times before entering the plant to ensure that no items were taken in.  Food items are any item that is taken from he hand and put into or in the area of the mouth.

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Shuttle bus loading.
The reason for no food items is there is a nuclear regulatory code that say's no food items are to be taken into the plant.  The code is in place to prevent anyone from ingesting any radioactive dust particle.  We were told that there is the possibility of picking up a radioactive dust particle (although very, very, slim).   This particle could then be transferred to the food item from your hand and then ingested.
Our people were split into two groups and were each handed a wireless headset that was fed from the tour guides microphone.  Our group started with walking through the turbine/generator section of the plant. This was a very long building with the lines of turbines and generators on our left as we walked.

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Turbines and Generators.
The next stop on the tour was the containment pool for the spent fuel.   We could look through glass windows into the pool area.  A crane was visible which is used for handling the fuel rods.  Each pool can contain 25 years worth of spent fuel.  New technology has enabled above ground containment areas to be used, eliminating the need for more pools in the future.  The spent fuel will take 1000 years to return to radiation levels that are safe.

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Spent fuel containment pool.
After viewing the containment pool we left what is called a high risk contamination area to a lower risk contamination area.  For a person to pass from one area to the next they must be tested for any signs of radiation.  This would most likely be a radioactive dust particle.  Of the fourteen years that Trish, our tour guides time at this job, she has yet to test positive for radiation contamination.  A special machine is used to test persons hands and soles of their shoes for particles of radioactive dust.  These two areas are the most likely areas of contamination.  The person stands on two grated squares and places their hands into holes.  The machine counts down when you have placed your feet and hands correctly and then gives you a clear signal.

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Testing for radioactive dust particles.
The next stop on the tour was the control room for four of the reactors.  In each corner of the large room were very large control panels.   Each reactor by code must be operated by computer.  There is the computer that operates the reactor and another computer for back-up.  If for some reason the operating computer were to fail, the back up computer would pick up without any interruption to the reactor.  It was told to us that it takes about 9 years of intensive training to become an operator of the reactor and the operator is trained and tested every year to ensure that skills are kept up.  Even facial expression is monitored during the training and testing for any indication of stress.

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A control panel for one of the reactors.
After the control room, we were off to one of the entry areas to a reactor.  These were very ominous looking doors with many controls and sensors attached.  A view port allowed you to see into the transfer walkway which was 18 meters long which had another similar door at the end.

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Door into reactor number 6
To leave this area each person had to be tested for radiation contamination once again.

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Tested once again.
This concluded the tour, but for us to leave, we had to be tested for contamination once again.  First our hard hats, glasses and hearing devices were tested by use of a hand held Geiger counter.  Even the camera used to take these pictures was tested for contamination.

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Testing a hard hat for contamination.
Next, our entire bodies were tested in walk in machines.   First you walk in and place your arms in up to the elbows.  The soles of your shoes are tested and the machine asks you to come closer if you are not positioned correctly, literally bellying up to the "v-shape" inside of the unit.   After you get the clear signal you turn around and place your hands in other sensors.  The clear signal is given and you are able to leave.

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View of two people getting tested for contamination.   One getting the front done another getting their back done.
We would like to thank Trish Petric and Brian Thompson, our tour guides.  They gave excellent tours of the facility and their pride in the facility shone through.

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Trish and Dave
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